Written by Connie Larkman
United Church of Christ leaders, clergy, advocates from churches around Arizona and as far away as Minnesota will be converging at the U.S.-Mexico border beginning tomorrow, Oct. 5, to call for a fundamental shift in U.S. foreign policy — one in support of refugees.
"For years Jesus taught justice and peace," said the Rev. William M. Lyons, designated conference minister of the Southwest Conference UCC. "Then came the day when Jesus laid his body on the line for the values he taught and believed. For years the United Church of Christ has adopted resolutions witnessing for human rights. On Oct. 8 bodies from the United Church of Christ, acting as the gathered Body of Christ, will converge on the U.S.-Mexico border at Nogales, Ariz., in solidarity with detainees, deportees, migrants who have died in the desert, and border-community residents enduring military-occupation conditions."
UCC activists, voicing the need for a more humanitarian approach to people fleeing their home countries for a better life in America, are joining the School of America's Watch Border Convergence Oct. 7-10, part of a grassroots movement to welcome immigrants and refugees and challenge a status quo that is responsible for the root causes of migration.
As the denomination's Our Stillspeaking Voice multimedia initiative for October, the UCC National Collaborative on Immigration has identified goals that also include a commitment to immersion education, and work to stop deportations.
The Southwest Conference UCC is hosting the denomination's delegation, along with Good Shepherd UCC in Sahuarita, Ariz. Leading up to Border Convergence, which includes a march to the border wall between the United States and Mexico, the UCC participants will have the opportunity to take part in an immersion experience with a desert walk with Samaritans, discuss the sanctuary movement, and hold a vigil at a detention center. A Saturday prayer service is also on the schedule.
Nine activists from Mayflower Congregational Church, in Minneapolis, Minn., part of the congregation's global justice advocacy team, are traveling to the UCC/SOA Watch event. Keith Roberts and his wife, Judy, are going "because our faith calls us to be concerned about the deeper justice issues, especially when we know our own government has been involved in creating some of the problems and some of our government policies are forcing people to migrate north," Keith said. "We can't sit still."
"It is exciting to welcome UCC folks from around the country for the School of Americas Watch Border Convergence;" said the Rev. Randy Mayer, pastor of Good Shepherd UCC and member of the UCC's Collaborative on Immigration. "I understand we have UCC people coming from Colorado, Minnesota, Chicago, Oregon, California and from six or seven churches in Arizona and New Mexico and from our Global Mission partner in Italy. It is an important time for people of faith to lift their voices and proclaim that the militarization of our border and communities is a dangerous practice that ultimately creates instability and fear. As people of faith we should be addressing root causes of immigration and seeking to build relationships."
Since 2000, nearly 3,000 people have died attempting to cross the desert in the Tucson area. Using migrant clothing found in the desert, artistically crafted quilts that list the names of those who perished since 2000 will be on display. UCC participants will be taking crosses to the border wall to mark and remember the souls who lost their lives trying to cross the border.
"This is our moment to incarnate all that we have said we value and believe about border justice, immigrant dignity and self-worth, and human rights for persons living in Mexico, Central and South America," Lyons said. "Join us!"